Home Op-Ed WWE's Saudi Arabia deal proves women's wrestling isn't a priority

WWE’s Saudi Arabia deal proves women’s wrestling isn’t a priority

The WWE women’s rev-and-or-evolution is going swimmingly, by many measures. The addition of the women’s tag belts bring the total number of women’s titles in the company to five, with plenty of fierce competition to hold each one. Their roster is huge and diverse, with tons of talent. The biggest stars in the company right now – Charlotte Flair, Ronda Rousey and especially Becky Lynch – are all women. All these advancements are long overdue, and not yet enough to bring about true parity, but there’s reason to believe the company is truly invested in promoting women. But the WWE’s Saudi Arabia deal proves otherwise.

WWE will return to Saudi Arabia with another pay-per-view event on May 3, per a Fightful report. It will be the third such event in just over a year, following the Greatest Royal Rumble and Crown Jewel. During the same time period, WWE held its first-ever all-women’s pay-per-view, Evolution. It was a great pay-per-view and a landmark moment for women’s wrestling in the WWE. But airing less than a week before Crown Jewel, it was difficult to ignore that WWE’s 2018 calendar included two pay-per-views where women were banned from performing for every one that gave them the spotlight.

Much could be written about the ethics of WWE’s Saudi Arabia deal, and how the company has completely failed to defend partnering with a government responsible for myriad human rights abuses, including against women. The WWE is hardly unique in lending the regime of Prince Mohammed Bin Salman – who personally ordered the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi – a veneer of legitimacy, though few institutions have done it so shamelessly and so transparently for profit.

But even if we set aside the political and moral context of the decision, on a purely aesthetic level, it’s an embarrassing error of judgement. The Greatest Royal Rumble and Crown Jewel were both among the weakest pay-per-views of the past year, in no small part because all the empty space left by the absence of its female stars had to be filled with half-assed nonsense matches like the Undertaker’s casket match against Rusev.

There’s little reason to hope that whatever WWE spews out next year will be any better. It’s hard to imagine getting hyped for a pay-per-view without a single female performer, from Becky Lynch right down to Billie Kay. WWE talks a good game about female empowerment but when one of the world’s most bloodthirsty regimes comes knocking with a boatload of cash, it’s happy to bench the entire women’s division. WWE will likely have a third pay-per-view with female performers banned before it has a second women’s event. Some revolution this turned out to be.

What do you think of the WWE’s decision to continue working with Saudi Arabia? Let us know in the comments.

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Dean Buckley
Irish wrestling fan, film and TV critic. Follow me on Twitter at @deanfbuckley

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